If you are a ‘flâneur‘ in Paris, you will be familiar with seeing olde worlde façades of apothecaries. Very few, however, have kept the original interiors.
Not too dissimilarly to Antoinette Poisson (see last Monday’s post here), today’s feature, steeped in history, showcases how an establishment founded in 1803 was reborn and re-imagined for 2014 in St Germain-des-Près.
On the instruction of his friend Christophe d’Aboville (previous artistic director at David Hicks France), A-Gent of Style made his way last week to Buly 1803,
6 rue Bonaparte, to see for himself the new beauty brand and its unique boutique launched on April 1st which has been garnering a lot of attention and press since.
The evocative universe of Buly is twofold; it is a decorative tour de force as well as a step back into early 19th century history. As soon as you walk in L’Officine Universelle Buly, you are transported into a space and an age celebrating the apothecaries of yesteryear and the refined establishments of the master perfumers. Parisian Jean-Vincent Bully was one of them and a famous one at that; his “Vinaigre de Toilette” was highly popular then and Bully even inspired Balzac to create one of his eponymous protagonists for one of his novels, César Birotteau. Inspired by archives of his 18th century officine (dispensary) and business, a new, modernised Buly was resurrected and rejuvenated, losing one l on the way to the 21st century to avoid the pejorative connotation in English. The timeless and charming result is a complete success; it is as if the store had always been there and its products simply a ‘remembrance of things past’.
Self-described as a “universal trading post for beauty secrets amassed over the centuries”, Buly 1803‘s universe is filled with scents and aromas but also heritage, traditions, memories and mysteries. Glass jars and vials filled with oils, perfume bottles and flasks, soaps, powders, creams, clays, candles, scented matches and accessories, all adorned with traditional but terribly chic packaging inspired by old documents, grace the dressers and shelves.
The decor is awash with striking elements: antiqued, glazed terracotta tiling made in Tuscany in glorious turquoise, ceiling and original beams delicately painted in white and blue à la française, reminiscent of faïence, that would make Mark D. Sikes weak at the knees, counters with deeply veined, swirling, rare Italian marble, antique lamps, mirror and ‘swan’ tap, all found at the flea market of Clignancourt and, throughout the boutique, imposing oak and walnut burl woodwork constructed by a carpenter just as in olden times, also inspired by old photos of pharmacies Hôtel Dieu.
The creative mastermind behind this rejuvenation is Ramdane Touhami, entrepreneur and art director, who has worked in the past with Le Bon Marché, Liberty and who has also renewed bell-covered Cire Trudon candles, now internationally famed.
Behind the concoctions is his elegant wife, Victoire de Taillac, a proficient connoisseur of cosmetics and an expert on the history of beauty in feminity. In partnership with Touhami, de Taillac launched Parfumerie Générale, the first alternative cosmetics store in France. Victoire is also the co-founder with Touhami of Corpus Magazine, a yearly and bilingual publication on beauty of the bodily and spiritual kind.
A breath of fresh air from the saturated, mass-produced and mass marketed beauty market, Buly 1803 has invented new skin care products for the face, body and hair, as well as personal and atmospheric perfumes, drawing on the most innovative cosmetic techniques (extraordinarily, the perfumes don’t use alcohol or glycerine but are water-based, which leaves the skin unctuously smooth) and on the virtues of natural ingredients, such as lavender flowers, iris root powder, raspberry seeds, baobab seed oil, sweet almonds, and green desert clay, that contain neither Parabens, phenoxyethanol or Silicon.
A-Gent of Style dutifully tried, only for the sake of research of course, the Pommade Virginale, a miraculous cream for the face. Needless to say, he is now a convert. And so will you, after your compulsory visit to this atypical, trend-setting boutique next time you are in the French capital.
A-Gent of Style arrived in Paris last Thursday evening on May 1, not only Labour Day in France but also la journée du muguet, or lily of the valley day. On that special day, everywhere in the City of Light and also throughout the gallic country, you will see vendors at street corners selling the delicate green sprigs capped with their tiny white bells.
When A-Gent of Style got reunited last Saturday night with fellow blogger The Parisian Eye, over cocktails (try the lush E.V.A!), this time at the George V hotel, he was bowled over to be faced, as he entered the prestigious hotel, with a wondrous flower installation replete with muguet which suffused the foyer with its seducing scent, courtesy of the brilliant artistic director in residence at the Four Seasons and flower artist, Jeff Leatham. In France, the tradition goes that people should offer un bouquet to their loved ones; a lover perhaps, your mother, grandmother, or anyone special. It isn’t unusual to see on May men wear a few stems of muguet in their lapel (A-Gent of Style obliged on the day) and women don the delicate flower in their hair. Delightful, n’est-ce pas! There’s a lot to be said about tradition.
As the story goes, on the first of May 1561, King Charles IX of France, who was ten at the time, was presented with a fragrant bunch of muguet. It was a gesture which touched the king so much that he continued the tradition by giving the sweet-smelling blossoms to the ladies of his court each year on the same day.
Lily of the valley has come to represent happiness, luck, rebirth and prosperity and the traditional Fête du Muguet continues in France today, almost five hundred years later.
When he was a kid, A-Gent of Style and his family would go every year without fail on May 1 to the woods and after the picnic they would take a postprandial stroll and pick as much lily of the valley as possible. Its scent is now firmly rooted in his consciousness and highly evocative.
The scent of these ephemeral flowers – in bloom just a couple of weeks each year – has bewitched perfumers for centuries as it is impossible to distil (did you also know that the flowers only grow on one side of the stem?), and its subtle perfume is recomposed in the secrecy of laboratories.
Lily of the valley has been represented throughout the centuries not only in perfume (Caron was one of the first to ‘bottle’ the scent; Dior’s lily of the valley-scented perfume Diorissimo is one of their best sellers to date) but also in fashion (Christian Dior adored the flower so much he based and named several of his collections ‘Muguet en mai’; Hubert de Givenchy too created a few gowns called ‘Les Muguets’; Helen Mirren donned last year a Dolce & Gabbana lily of the valley-print dress, on three different public appearances), in luxury goods (Lalique crystal vases, Van Cleef and Arpels jewellery for instance), at weddings (from Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn to the Duchess of Cambridge) and in candles, room sprays, soaps even teas and macaroons to name a few.
Come take a look and celebrate le muguet:
‘Calotte en muguet’, Paulette 1958
by Tory Burch
Audrey Hepburn, Givenchy 1956
The “Muguet” dress by Christian Dior, 1954
‘Le Muguet du Métro’ by Robert Doisneau 1953
‘Les Muguets’ by Hubert de Givenchy
Lalique ‘Lily of the Valley’ crystal perfume bottle 1932
Jean Berthet 1964
Van Cleef and Arpels lucky-charm ‘Muguet’ clip in platinum, diamonds and emeralds
Grace Kelly at her wedding to Prince Rainier, Monaco April 1956 in a dress designed by MGM wardrobe designer Helen Rose
by Verner Panton
by Tory Burch
“A captivating, magical, enigmatic purple, as the color of the year for 2014”
Pantone 18-3224’s Radiant Orchid is “an enchanting harmony of fuchsia, purple and pink undertones; it inspires confidence and emanates great joy, love and health. It is a captivating purple, one that draws you in with its beguiling charm”.
Radiant Orchid has polarised opinions and has had a ‘Marmite’ effect on people, eliciting strong feelings of love and hate since it was first revealed to the world at the end of last year. A-Gent of Style must admit his first, visceral reaction was rather not adulatory. The actual word “vile” might have been overheard from this side of Bayswater.
“While the 2013 color of the year, PANTONE 17-5641 Emerald, served as a symbol of growth, renewal and prosperity, Radiant Orchid reaches across the color wheel to intrigue the eye and spark the imagination,” said Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute®. “An invitation to innovation, Radiant Orchid encourages expanded creativity and originality, which is increasingly valued in today’s society.”
After much research, A-Gent wouldn’t go as far as saying that he has been converted to Radiant Orchid but he will concede that some of the pictorial evidence shown below have mellowed him on the matter. Radiant Orchid surely livens up a neutral palette and energises and unifies diverse spaces or outfits when used as the odd accent here and there. It also seems to complement greens, turquoises and even light yellows rather well. A few overpowering, garish interiors suffused with various hues of purple made A-Gent of Style think twice about how to use purple, not only in interior decoration but also in fashion and design. There is no denying that purple, in its various hues and tones to which Radiant Orchid belongs, can be uplifting and unifying. Whilst the colours in the images below are not always spot on ‘Pantone 18-3224’, A-Gent of Style tried to show how various shades of purple could bedazzle us and hopefully enhance our daily life for 2014.